To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War and the collapse of the Confederacy, I’d like to share some facts about the flag we today think of as the Confederate flag.
First, the flag with two diagonal blue stripes on a red background commonly believed to be the flag of the Confederacy is NOT the flag of the Confederacy. It was the battle flag of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, and was later incorporated in part into the Confederate flag in 1863.
Second, Robert E. Lee was a deeply conservative man who would probably object to women wearing his battle flag as a bikini.
Third, as much as people take pride in the battle flag today, your ancestors probably didn’t. Desertion was a huge problem in the Confederate army, described as “more damning than slaughter” to the CSA’s fortunes. Over 100,000 Confederate soldiers, some 10% of the troops in uniform, deserted, and many more wanted to desert or tried and failed. If you have ancestors that fought for the Confederacy, there is a good chance that they either deserted the army or wanted to, so wearing a Confederate battle flag isn’t honoring them, it’s representing a symbol of a system that trapped them.
Fourth, the secession of the Confederate States may have been about States Rights, but the only states rights issue that mattered in the 1860’s was slavery. Name me one other that ever came up in the antebellum debates in the 1840’s &1850’s; the arguments of apologists from the 1920’s “glorious cause” era and forward don’t count when compared to the statements of people who live in the time.
Fifth, no matter what you think you are symbolizing when displaying a Confederate flag on your wall, your truck, or your body, it is at its heart a racist message. The man who brought the battle flag into the main national flag put it on a white background because, “As a people we are fighting to maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematical of our cause.” —William T. Thompson (April 23, 1863), Daily Morning News